Policing UK Demonstrations

Heavy handing policing of demonstrations

10th April

Offsite: Police Thugs and the Death of Ian Tomlinson...

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Guardian on the track of an attempted police cover up

It began with an anodyne press release from the Metropolitan police more than three hours after Ian Tomlinson died. It ended with a police officer and an investigator from the Independent Police Complaints Commission asking the Guardian to remove a video from its website showing an unprovoked police assault on Tomlinson minutes before his heart attack.

In the space of five days through a combination of official guidance, strong suggestion and press releases, those responsible for examining the circumstances surrounding Tomlinson's death within the City of London police and the IPCC, appeared to be steering the story to what they thought would be its conclusion: that the newspaper vendor suffered an unprovoked heart attack as he made his way home on the night of the G20 protests.

Late last Friday, after investigators from the IPCC had spoken to detectives from City police, the commission which claims it is the most powerful civilian oversight body in the world, was preparing to say it did not need to launch an inquiry into the death during one of the most controversial recent policing operations.

But the release of the video by the Guardian this week, which revealed Mr Tomlinson was subjected to an unprovoked attack by a Met riot squad officer minutes before he died, has forced the IPCC to step up to the demand that it launch a full independent inquiry.

...Read full article

Update: Abuse of police powers is unexceptional

10th April 2009. See article from guardian.co.uk by Henry Porter

The shocking video of Ian Tomlinson being attacked last week has led to a general concern about the police's oppressive tactics and lack of respect for rights. People as far apart politically as Peter Hitchens and Vince Cable, both of whom have had direct experience of policing in London, have recently expressed fears that New Labour's laws are creating a gulf between police and public, and that our right to protest has been severely curtailed.

Last week I heard about another case of intimidation by police. It is unexceptional, which is what makes it so disturbing.

...Read full article


11th April

Offsite: Nobody's Keeping an Eye on the Police...

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The surveillance state turned a blind eye on Ian Tomlinson

The big stories about the police in recent days have been a reminder of how nonsensical are our laws on public surveillance. In Britain today, there's scarcely a wall unencumbered by a CCTV camera, spying on our doings and thus helping us feel safe (if the knowledge that your every action is being watched and recorded does indeed help you feel safe, rather than itchily paranoid). And yet, when a policeman at the G20 protests apparently attacked a man who was merely trying to walk home, no CCTV footage of the alleged assault was forthcoming.

CCTV, it was reported, showed Ian Tomlinson walking in the direction of the police before the incident. CCTV also showed him walking away from the scene afterwards. Curiously, though, we never heard of any CCTV footage showing the alleged assault take place. We saw what really happened only because a bystander captured it on video.

...Read full article


14th April

Offsite: Keeping an Eye on Bad Policing...

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I've watched the police for 30 years and I still despair

'Intelligent policing' requires that officers respect protesters, not seek a confrontation with them

The events surrounding the police in the past 10 days are all too familiar - heavy-handed treatment of innocent bystanders, followed by botched cover-ups. Meanwhile, Bob Quick's inadvertent exposure of highly sensitive information follows a tradition of lost discs, while the government demands to collect our personal data to protect us. The only comic side to the recent sad events is that they were all caught on camera, many of which were owned by the police themselves. Rough justice or what?

That makes Quick risking his briefing papers for an anti-terrorist operation being photographed quite extraordinary. And the behaviour of the police officer attacking Ian Tomlinson from behind even more so. What could they have presumed would be the reaction of anyone seeing those pictures? They must have known cameras were everywhere.

They may have felt safe from criticism because of Section 76 of the Counter-Terrorism Act, which came into force on 16 February. That makes it an offence to photograph any police officer or member of the armed services in ways that could aid terrorism. This problematic legislation risks discouraging an ever more precious weapon in holding police accountable when the government gives them powers to treat peaceful demonstrators as a threat not only to order, but to the state itself.

...Read full article


15th April

Update: Calling the Kettlers Black...

Police beating of woman G20 protestor posted on YouTube

The unconvincing police watchdog is to investigate a fresh claim of alleged police brutality after new video footage emerged showing a woman being hit by an officer during the G20 protests.

The Metropolitan officer, who has his identification number covered up in the video, appears to slap the woman across the face before taking out his baton and hitting her on the legs. He was last night identified and suspended by the Met.

The new incident, which appeared on the website You Tube, is another blow for the Met which has already faced intense criticism over the beating and death of Ian Tomlinson.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has already received around 120 complaints about police actions during the G20 protests. The fact the officer is not showing his police ID number is reminiscent of the Tomlinson incident where the officer in question also failed to have his number on show.

Scotland Yard said the footage raised immediate concerns when it became aware of it on Tuesday afternoon and was referring the matter to the IPCC. A spokesman said: Every officer is accountable under law, and fully aware of the scrutiny that their actions can be held open to. The decision to use force is made by the individual police officer, and they must account for that.

It emerged earlier that CCTV footage of the moment Mr Tomlinson was hit and shoved to the ground by a police officer could exist after investigators admitted they were wrong to say there were no cameras in the area. Last week Nick Hardwick, chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is investigating, said there was no CCTV footage because there were no cameras in the location where he was assaulted. But the IPCC yesterday issued a clarification that Hardwick's assertion may not be accurate and that there were indeed cameras covering the area. A spokeswoman insisted the investigators knew that from the start and have been examining hours of footage.


18th April

Update: Killing and Kettling...

Police tactics need urgent investigation

' The UK police officer caught on film attacking Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests could face manslaughter charges after a second postmortem concluded that the newspaper vendor died from internal bleeding and not a heart attack.

It emerged last night that the Metropolitan police officer who had been suspended from duty has now been interviewed under caution on suspicion of manslaughter by investigators from the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The New York fund manager who handed the Guardian the video evidence said last night that he felt vindicated by the findings. Now I'm glad I came forward. It's possible Mr Tomlinson's death would have been swept under the rug otherwise. You needed something incontrovertible. In this case it was the video.

The first postmortem results - which were released by police - said Tomlinson had died of a heart attack. The second postmortem was ordered by the family's legal team and the IPCC after the footage was broadcast.

The second postmortem was conducted by Dr Nat Cary, who was able to scrutinise video evidence before conducting his examination. In a statement last night, City of London coroners court said Dr Cary had provisionally concluded that internal bleeding was the cause of Tomlinson's death. Dr Cary's opinion is that the cause of death was abdominal haemorrhage. The cause of the haemorrhage remains to be ascertained. Dr Cary accepts that there is evidence of coronary atherosclerosis but states that in his opinion its nature and extent is unlikely to have contributed to the cause of death.

Neither the IPCC nor City of London police made any mention of the injuries or abdominal blood found by the pathologist Dr Freddy Patel when they released results of the first postmortem. City of London police said only that Tomlinson had suffered a sudden heart attack while on his way home from work.

Tomlinson's son Paul King said: We believe we were badly misled by police about the possible role they played in Ian's death. First we were told that there had been no contact with the police, then we were told that he died of a heart attack. Now we know that he was violently assaulted by a police officer and died from internal bleeding. As time goes on we hope that the full truth about how Ian died will be made known.

O'Connor Inquiry

Based on article from guardian.co.uk

The Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, has ordered a review of public order policing amid mounting concerns over the way his force and the City of London police handled the G20 protests this month.

Stephenson said he had asked the chief inspector of constabulary, Denis O'Connor, to examine police tactics. The so-called practice of "kettling" containing crowds will be a prime focus of O'Connor's inquiry.

Stephenson has also barred uniformed police officers from covering their shoulder identification numbers, saying the public has a right to be able to identify them.


23rd April

Update: Dubious Motives...

IPCC attempts to block Channel 4 News from showing new footage of Ian Tomlinson's altercation with police

New Footage has emerged showing the moment Ian Tomlinson's head hit the pavement after he was pushed over by a police officer at the G20 protests.

The video also revealed fresh details about events leading up to the alleged assault on Tomlinson. It appears to confirm ­witness testimony that the 47-year-old showed no resistance to advancing lines of police in the moments before he was hit and pushed to the ground.

Last night the IPCC attempted to secure a court order to prevent the broadcast of a truncated ­version of the film that appeared ­momentarily on YouTube. The truncated version was copied by Channel 4 News, which planned to broadcast it, before it was removed from YouTube. But a judge refused to grant the injunction.

The IPCC said: We can confirm that we attempted to seek an injunction this evening against Channel 4 as it came to light that they were due to broadcast ­further evidence which we believe at this moment would potentially damage our criminal investigation into the death of Ian Tomlinson. This injunction was specific to what was due to be broadcast this evening.

The attempt by the IPCC to prevent the broadcast of the video appeared to contradict the stance taken by its chairman, Nick Hardwick, several hours earlier.

Hardwick told MPs on the Commons home affairs select committee yesterday he did not believe web footage of incidents at the demonstrations would prejudice legal proceedings: We would rather it was not on the web but I don't think it is a serious risk and we have to deal with the world as it is rather than as we would wish it to be.


28th April

Update: Police to Get a Good Kicking...

Police to be challenged over heavy handed tactics at the G20 protests

A Scotland Yard officer boasted about the unwashed getting a good kicking at the G20 protests in a police blog entry posted a day after the death of Ian Tomlinson. The Met said last night it was attempting to identify the author of the comments.

The latest inflammatory remarks from serving policemen over the treatment of G20 protesters surfaced after it emerged that PC Rob Ward had allegedly bragged on Facebook how he was going to bash some long-haired hippies at the G20 demonstrations.

Met commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson responded to rising anti-police sentiment by announcing a new regime of intrusive supervision to root out rogue officers.

Meanwhile, the prospect of more Met officers facing criminal investigation for assaulting G20 protesters appears to be increasing. A London law firm has collated material indicating that 14 protesters sustained wounds to the head caused directly by police violence. Another 15 cases are being examined in which people were punched or struck in the face by police riot shields or batons and suffered injury or trauma wounds.

At least 10 of the cases relate to injuries sustained by women, with one account involving two women who were pinned together and then hit repeatedly on their arms and heads with riot shields. A number also relate to instances where demonstrators claim that they were attacked after they fell to the ground.

Bindmans is also preparing to launch a legal challenge against the use of kettling , the police tactic used to pen in 5,000 people during the G20 protests and a strategy which led to protesters suffering asthma and panic attacks. John Halford, a partner in Bindmans, said that the firm had held talks with Climate Camp legal advisers to prepare to launch a judicial review against the containment of protesters.

Halford said that kettling is legally justifiable only when there is no alternative to address actual or imminent violence. He said: There is much to suggest that 'kettling' was the first thing resorted to as a response to a peaceful demonstration that was considered a nuisance by the police. Worse, many protesters have reported unprovoked baton charges and other forms of intimidation while they were penned in. We plan to ensure all of this is examined by the courts.


4th May

Update: Possibly Lies...

Police claim that G20 protestors were allowed to leave kettle where possible

Scotland Yard was accused of misleading its own watchdog after an official report on the policing of the G20 London protests was said to contain false claims and gross inaccuracies.

The document, submitted to a meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority yesterday, set out the police version of events during the demonstrations last month, and included claims protesters and independent observers said were misleading.

The Liberal Democrat justice spokesman, David Howarth, said the report was full of serious inaccuracies and questioned its claim that protesters were free to leave police cordons on the streets.

The report stated that whenever possible, people were allowed to leave the cordon around the Bank of England and the Climate Camp in Bishopsgate. But accounts from hundreds of people caught inside the pens for hours indicated police refused people permission to leave.

Other alleged inaccuracies in the Met's report included the claim that the Bishopsgate Climate Camp had blocked a four-lane highway, and that police had supplied water to penned people.

The report also said Climate Camp protesters had refused to divulge their plans at a meeting with senior officers on the eve of the rally. Howarth, who mediated the meeting, said protesters had been constructive in attempts to liaise with the police. It is time for the spinning to stop and for senior officers to ... take responsibility, Howarth said.

The report also said the Met was cooperating with the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is investigating a complaint relating to an alleged assault of a 22-year-old woman on 1 April. The IPCC has received 256 complaints relating to G20 demonstrations.


29th June

Losing Confidence in the Police...

MPs tell police that their tactics are criminalising protest

Police must urgently review their tactic of kettling demonstrators, MPs investigating the G20 protests said.

In a damning report, the Commons home affairs committee says holding protesters in a small area for hours is unacceptable.

The first major review of the operation also said officers who work with their identity numbers hidden or missing should face the strongest possible disciplinary measures.

It concluded: Above all, the police must constantly remember that those who protest on Britain's streets are not criminals but citizens motivated by moral principles, exercising their democratic rights. The police's doctrine must remain focused on allowing this protest to happen peacefully. Any action which may be viewed by the general public as the police criminalising protest on the streets must be avoided at all costs.

Police have been heavily criticised for their conduct at demonstrations by 35,000 people during the visit of world leaders to London in early April.

Newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson died in clashes in Central London, after being pushed to the ground. The officer who allegedly shoved him has been suspended and could face criminal charges. Amateur videos appear to show protesters being pushed or hit by officers. More than 200 complaints of alleged police brutality at the protests have been made.

The report condemns the tactic of kettling, saying it is unacceptable to impose a blanket ban on movement. Frontline officers must be given discretion to allow peaceful protesters to escape highly-charged events, MPs said.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz said: It is clear that concerns about the policing of the G20 protests have damaged the public's confidence in the police, and that is a great shame. The ability of the public and the media to monitor every single action of the police through CCTV, mobile phones and video equipment should mean they take even greater care to ensure that all their actions are justifiable.

Update: Police floated impostor theory over Ian Tomlinson's death

2nd July 2009. See article from guardian.co.uk

A senior police officer who 'investigated' the death of Ian Tomlinson told his family that the officer who struck him at the G20 demonstrations could have been a member of the public dressed in police uniform.

The City of London police investigator made the comment at an emergency meeting with Tomlinson's family and the Independent Police Complaints Commission on 8 April, hours after the Guardian released footage showing the attack on the 47-year-old newspaper vendor.

A report on issues surrounding Tomlinson's death by Inquest, the group that assists the families of people who die in police custody, said yesterday that the suggestion he might have been attacked by an impostor gave the impression that the investigation was biased.

The City of London police completely failed to persuade the Tomlinson family of its impartiality, not least when they were told by an investigating officer that he was not ruling out the possibility that the alleged assailant may be a member of the public dressed in police uniform, it said. A source present at the 8 April meeting said the senior investigator's comment was made after he was pressed on how the identity of the officer could be established from the video.

The investigator agreed that the man who struck Tomlinson was likely to have been a police officer, but could not rule out the possibility that he was a member of the public.

The family believed this theory was fantastical. The video of the attack clearly showed that the officer who struck Tomlinson, who has since been suspended from duty and questioned under caution for manslaughter, was surrounded by more than a dozen police officers. The source said that the investigator claimed one possibility was that a member of the public had stolen a Metropolitan police uniform and equipment from the back of a police van before initiating the attack.


9th July

O'Connor Calls the Kettlers Black...

G20 policing criticised in interim report

Senior Metropolitan police commanders given the task of maintaining order at the G20 rally this spring did not understand their legal duties when they decided to contain thousands of protesters near the Bank of England, according to an analysis of the force's performance released today by the police watchdog.

Denis O'Connor, the chief inspector of constabulary, recommended a national overhaul of the police approach to demonstrations in a report today on the G20 protests, describing the current practice as inadequate and belonging to a different era.

He found Met commanders failed to consider human rights obligations which are relevant to the use of police force.

His 68-page report, Adapting to Protest, presented the interim findings of HMIC's review of public order policing, initiated after the demonstrations in the City of London on 1 April, which resulted in the death of the newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson and more than 250 complaints to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

All senior officers should from now on prioritise their obligation to facilitate protest, the report said, even when doing so could result in some level of disruption.

In a series of further recommendations, the report said police should strive to improve communication with protesters and the media and consider making officers wear badge numbers, which they are not statutorily obliged to do.

Consideration should be given to the impact of techniques adopted by riot officers that could cause serious injury, such as thrusting the sides of shields towards a protester's head, an action seen repeatedly in video footage circulated after the protests. Some tactics used in public order have been medically assessed, O'Connor said: That tactic has not been assessed.

The review stopped short of arguing that officers should abandon the use of kettling, arguing instead that containment methods should be modified to ensure officers on the ground can use greater discretion to allow peaceful protesters and bystanders to leave an area.

What the review identifies is that the world is changing, and the police need to think about changing their approach to policing protest, O'Connor said: We live in an age where public consent of policing cannot be assumed, and policing, including public order policing, should be designed to win the consent of the public.


27th October

Offsite: Terror Tactics...

Police re-brand lawful protest as 'domestic extremism'

After the demonstration known as Climate Camp, North Yorkshire police conducted a review along with government officials. Internal papers obtained by the Guardian show they called it the first time domestic extremism took place against national infrastructure in the county .

The term domestic extremism is now common currency within the police. It is a phrase which shapes how forces seek to control demonstrations. It has led to the personal details and photographs of a substantial number of protesters being stored on secret police databases around the country. There is no official or legal definition of the term. Instead, the police have made a vague stab at what they think it means. Senior officers describe domestic extremists as individuals or groups that carry out criminal acts of direct action in furtherance of a campaign. These people and activities usually seek to prevent something from happening or to change legislation or domestic policy, but attempt to do so outside of the normal democratic process. They say they are mostly associated with single issues and suggest the majority of protesters are never considered extremists.

Police insist they are just monitoring the minority who could damage property or commit aggravated trespass, causing significant disruption to lawful businesses. Activists respond by claiming this is an excuse that gives police the licence to carry out widespread surveillance of whole organisations that are a legitimate part of the democratic process.

...Read full article

When police admit you could be put on a secret database for being at a demo, it's time to worry

See article from guardian.co.uk by Mark Thomas

I was sent the now notorious police spotter card through the post. It's an official laminated card for police eyes only and labelled as coming from CO11 Public Order Intelligence Unit . The card contained the photographs of 24 anti-arms trade protesters, unnamed but lettered A to X. My picture appeared as photo H. You can imagine my reaction at finding I was the subject of a secret police surveillance process I was delighted. I phoned my agent and told him I was suspect H. He replied: Next year we'll get you top billing suspect A.

The Metropolitan police circulated the card specifically for the Docklands biannual arms fair in London to help its officers identify people at specific events who may instigate offences or disorder . Which is such a flattering quote I am thinking of having it on my next tour poster. While being wanted outside the arms fair, I was legitimately inside researching a book on the subject, and uncovered four companies illegally promoting banned torture equipment. Questions were later asked in the Commons as to why HM Revenue & Customs and the police didn't spot it. Though, in fairness, none of the torture traders featured on the spotter card.

What exactly was I doing that was so awfully wrong as to merit this attention? Today's Guardian revelations of three secret police units goes some way to explain the targeting of protesters and raises worrying questions. The job of these units is to spy on protesters, and collate and circulate information about them. Protesters - or, as the police call them, domestic extremists - are the new reds under the bed .

...Read the full article

The Breakdown of Free Society

See article from guardian.co.uk by Henry Porter

The shocking Guardian report into the surveillance operations run by the police National Public Order Intelligence Unit makes it clear that the right of free protest in Britain now hangs in the balance, and that the very expression of opinion and attendance at meetings is enough for an individual to be categorised as an enemy of society.

Anyone now who feels strongly about climate change or the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is now liable to be labelled a domestic extremist to be photographed and monitored and to be subject to automatic tracking by the number plate recognition system. There are few stories that capture the parlous state of Britain's democracy like this one, and I suggest none that portray the government's institutionalised contempt for rights and its casual attitude to unfettered growth of police powers.

The outrage that will be expressed in the wake of the investigation by Paul Lewis, Rob Evans and Matthew Taylor, which is to run over the next two days, will mean nothing unless we manage to change attitudes across the board. We now live in a society whose values and instincts have been so skewed by Labour's corrosive rule that it is possible in one week to watch the leader of a fascist organisation promoting his cause on BBC TV - and the next to learn that legitimate protesters with mainstream views are regarded as domestic extremists and harried by the police using anti-terror laws when their cars pass through the field of automatic number plate recognition cameras.

We seem to have lost the ability to navigate these issues with anything resembling common sense, which no doubt suits the authorities. They seem to desire more and more control over the individual and the expression of his or her political views.

...read the full article


29th October

Power Abuse...

Police find new wheeze to stifle protestors

Ten protesters who were arrested during an occupation of a power station have been barred from going into Oxfordshire.

Restrictions were imposed by police on the climate change protesters, who have yet to be charged over the occupation of Didcot power station, near Oxford.

They are the latest example of punitive pre-charge bail conditions, which lawyers warn are becoming widespread as a quasi-legal tool used by police to stifle protest. Police were given the power to use pre-charge bail conditions under a barely noticed amendment to the Police and Justice Act in 2006. They can even be imposed by officers in the street without taking the suspect to a police station.

It has resulted in activists who have not been charged with any crime having wide-ranging restrictions imposed on them, from entering London or Scotland, to walking near power stations or attending a Climate Camp protest.

One case concerns Guy Mitchell, who was walking home from an environmental protest meeting in Leeds two weeks ago when an unmarked black saloon pulled up alongside him. Three plainclothes police officers told him he was under arrest. He was being arrested, in effect, for something he had not yet done and for which he has not so far been charged.

Mitchell has now twice been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage. Conspiracy offences rely on police being able to prove someone intended to break the law, an accusation Mitchell calls thought crime . He points out that despite the two conspiracy arrests, he has yet to be charged, and believes the pre-emptive arrest laws are being used to bar him from demonstrating.

His most recent arrest on 14 October occurred three days before another protest against the same power station, owned by E.ON. He said six police officers spent three hours searching his home. He was questioned about his family and political beliefs. He was asked to explain every recent text message sent on his phone.

Mike Schwarz of Bindmans, an expert in public order law, said: The police now bail people repeatedly for long periods of time - sometimes weeks, sometimes months, sometimes for over a year - without having to prove wrongdoing and often based on nothing other than the say so of the arresting officer.


14th November

Update: Dubious Legality...

Quasi legal ACPO considers whether it is the right organisation for monitoring protesters

The head of Britain's police chiefs has said that a scheme to monitor political campaigners may be scrapped as part of plans to make national policing more accountable.

In his first major interview since taking office, Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), acknowledged public disquiet over the way his units are gathering data on thousands of activists and said the scheme can go tomorrow , although he said some form of monitoring of protesters would need to continue, with independent regulation.

Senior police officers from all 44 forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are discussing his proposals. The discussions could result in Acpo becoming a statutory body, and could mean parts of the organisation, such as those responsible for monitoring so-called domestic extremists , are sponsored by the Home Office and ultimately answerable to parliament.

Denis O'Connor, the chief inspector of constabulary, is expected to call for major reform of Acpo's domestic extremism units in a major report into the policing of protest later this month. His inspectors believe Acpo has fallen victim to mission creep, taking on quasi-operational national policing functions that lack proper accountability.

Last month the Guardian revealed Acpo was running a £9m scheme to help keep tabs on political activists categorised as domestic extremists , a term with no legal basis. Three secretive units, which employ a staff of 100 and also advise companies that are the targets of protest, are controlled by Acpo's terrorism and allied matters division, which Orde described as a huge piece of business .

They include the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), a national database that stores information on thousands of so-called domestic extremists, information which is made available to forces.


28th November

Update: Policing without Consent...

Police and politicians undermine Robert Peel's vision of British policing

Political leadership is urgently needed to protect the British brand of policing after years of drift and piecemeal initiatives, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary told The Times last night.

Denis O'Connor said that the principle of policing by public consent had been severely undermined, most visibly by aggressive and unfair tactics at protests such as the G20 demonstrations.

In a highly critical report O'Connor depicted how deploying officers in riot gear had become a routine response to lawful demonstrators because of ignorance of the law surrounding protest and a lack of leadership from chief officers and Home Office ministers.

O'Connor said that he had been particularly alarmed to discover that some forces trained officers to use their riot shields as offensive weapons. The potentially dangerous technique had spread by word of mouth.

His report was commissioned after the G20 protests in the City of London in April when one man died and hundreds of complaints were made about police violence, abuse of powers and the tactic of kettling or containment of crowds.

The 150-page document exposed the ad hoc nature of public order policing, with forces across the country differing in the equipment they bought, their training methods and their understanding of their powers to stop, question or arrest protesters.

The failure of police to understand the law was in part explained by the complexity of legislation, with 90 amendments to the Public Order Act since it was passed in 1986.

I would welcome some senior politicians addressing these issues, O'Connor said. We don't have these difficulties, albeit there are some terrible challenges, in defence. There are lots of discussions about health. Can we not elevate the discussion about policing?

He said that the British policing model, as set down by Sir Robert Peel, should be nurtured and protected and that every policy initiative should be examined to see if it was compatible with the principle of policing by consent.

He added: It gets eroded, potentially, by each new bit of legislation, each new initiative health and safety, whatever else to the point where you end up with a shadow of what you thought you had.

It has happened by drift, by the absence of somebody asserting what matters. We need to think about the principles as well as the technical matters.


26th May

Update: Ominous Double Speak...

Protester Brian Haw arrested whilst the Queen was saying her government would restore the right to peaceful protest

David Cameron's coalition government promised Britons a new era of freedom and civil liberties today, only hours after the country's most prominent antiwar campaigner was arrested outside Parliament.

Brian Haw, who has kept up an anti-war vigil for eight years, was forcibly detained and handcuffed at 8am as police with sniffer dogs moved in to search the ragtag collection of tents on Parliament Square. A supporter, Barbara Tucker, was also detained.

They were arrested under 'police can make it up as they go along' Section 5 of the Public Order Act. The two were being held at a Central London police station.

This morning's swoop was reportedly ordered by the Conservative Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to remove what he called the mess and chaos ahead of today's state opening of Parliament.

But it sat uneasily with the more libertarian and reformist elements of the Queen's Speech, which included widespread political and parliamentary reform and a new Freedom Bill which will enshrine the right of individuals to protest peacefully without fear of being criminalised .


24th July

Update: Licensed to Kill...

As always, no charges for police to answer

A police officer who was filmed pushing a man to the ground during the G20 protests will not face charges over his death.

Ian Tomlinson died after being caught up in the clashes on 1 April 2009 in the City of London.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer claimed there was no prospect of conviction because experts could not agree on how  Tomlinson died.

Tomlinson's son Paul King described the decision as outrageous .

The officer who was filmed pushing Tomlinson has been named as Pc Simon Harwood from the Metropolitan Police territorial support group.

Tomlinson, a newspaper seller who was not involved in the protests, was walking home when he was caught up in the demonstration.

The video footage showed him being apparently struck by a baton and then pushed to the ground. He was seen moving away after the incident but was found collapsed 100 metres away in Cornhill.

Update: To be charged

2nd June 2011. See  article from  independent.co.uk

Simon Harwood, the police constable who is alleged to have given the news vendor Ian Tomlinson a fatal shove during a G20 demonstration, is to face a charge of manslaughter.

The decision is a turnabout for prosecutors who a year ago dismissed the possibility of criminal charges resulting from Mr Tomlinson's death. PC Harwood, a father of two from Carshalton, Surrey, is due to appear in court on 20 June.

A five-week-long inquest, which began two years after his death, ended earlier this month. Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said new medical evidence at the inquest and the opinions of experts during the hearing helped change his mind.

He said: The difficulties that would now confront any prosecution have changed in nature and scale from last year when a decision was taken not to prosecute, although it is clear that real difficulties remain.

Taking the evidence as it now stands, we have concluded that, even with those remaining difficulties, there is now sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of successfully prosecuting PC Simon Harwood for the manslaughter of Mr Tomlinson.

That being the case, it is clearly in the public interest that criminal proceedings be brought. Accordingly, a summons charging PC Harwood with the manslaughter of Mr Tomlinson has been obtained from the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court.

The inquest saw CCTV and helicopter footage, which showed the shambling figure of Mr Tomlinson trying to find a way round the lines of police who were kettling protestors outside the Bank of England. He reacted angrily to being shoved and hit with a baton, but got back to his feet, only to collapse nearby.

Update: Acquitted

21st July 2012. See article from itv.com

The policeman found not guilty of killing Ian Tomlinson during the G20 riots had been previously accused of excessive force, ITV News has learned.

Pc Simon Harwood was also investigated for alleged off-duty road rage - but jurors who cleared him today were not told of his disciplinary record.

Trial judge Mr Justice Fulford rejected an application by prosecutors to admit the claims as evidence of the officer's bad character because they were never proved.


27th August

Offsite: The Death of Ian Tomlinson...

A Photographer's Account

My role in this, what has become a farce, is relatively minor. My photographs were part of a jigsaw that probably shed little light on events. But due to my minor involvement, the decision made by the CPS has angered me more than it perhaps would have otherwise. I always understood that it was going to be difficult to charge PC Horwood with manslaughter but I did not expect that he would be charged with nothing. I am not naive to the power and interests of authority, and you could almost imagine the high-level phone calls being made to handicap the proceedings made against PC Horwood. A conviction against Horwood would have had huge consequences on the role and actions of the police in England, working against their interests and current practice. It is obvious that we are not all equal under the law. Imagine if Tomlinson had been a banker making his way home, or if a protestor had attacked a police officer immediately before his death?

...Read the full article


14th December

Offsite: Inside the Parliament Square Kettle...

Violent policing of student demonstrations

There is blood on my face, but not all of it is mine. I'm writing this from the UCL occupation, where injured students and schoolchildren keep drifting in in ones and twos, dazed and bruised, looking for medical attention and a safe space to sit down. It's a little like a field hospital, apart from the people checking Twitter for updates on the demonstration I've just returned from, where 30,000 young people marched to Whitehall, got stopped, and surged through police lines into Parliament Square.

They came to protest against the tuition fees bill that was hauled through the house yesterday by a fractured and divided coalition government. They believe that parliamentary democracy has failed them, that the state has set its face against them. When they arrived at Parliament Square, they found themselves facing a solid wall of metal cages guarded by armed police.

...Read the full article


18th March

Update: Protest Banned...

Long time protestor Brian Haw set to be evicted form Parliament Square

Long time protestor Brian Haw looks set to be removed by force from the pavement opposite Parliament. The High Court ruled in favour of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who wants to have him evicted.

But he will not be forced out until Monday 28 March. He has until then to lodge an appeal against the ruling.

Haw has been camped on the roadside opposite Parliament almost continuously since 2001, in protest against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A High Court judge, Wyn Williams, has now ordered the removal of both Haw and his fellow activist, Barbara Tucker. Williams granted an injunction against them, which he described as proportionate .

The pavement around the Parliament Square belongs to Westminster Council. Westminster Council insist that camps outside Parliament are an eyesore . But civil liberties campaigners argue that allowing protests outside Parliament sends out a positive message to tourists about the right to free expression in Britain.


24th January

Update: Protestors Left Steaming...

Kettling back on the police menu after High Court appeal

The Metropolitan Police has won its appeal against a High Court ruling over kettling tactics used during the G20 demonstrations.

The High Court ruling had been won by Hannah McClure, a student, and Josh Moos, a campaigner for Plane Stupid.

They challenged the legality of restraint methods used against them in April 2009 when they were contained by policemen in Bishopsgate.

But the Court of Appeal has now ruled against the High Court's decision.

The High Court ruling, where policemen were said to have used unjustified force , led to a call from human rights lawyers for an immediate change to police attitudes and tactics .

Police used the kettling tactic - where demonstrators are corralled inside police cordons and prevented from leaving - against the protesters in Bishopsgate, even though they had been peaceful.


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